Friday, 30 December 2011

HOW WE HAD A "REEL" GOOD TIME DURING CHRISTMAS.

The festive season is supposed to be a time of unlimited happiness. Everybody knows that, right? The general expectation is that family and friends get together to exchange gifts and eat turkey. The last thing people expect or want is domestic conflict.

The holiday season isn't a joyous time for many in this age of marital contention and no-fault divorce. Christmas is one time of year when incidents of family violence, or the threat of it, peaks. Everybody - according to advertisers - is supposed to have the "perfect Christmas." That pressure sometimes causes quarrels to turn deadly.

In my Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I wrote about how we managed to have fun during the holidays in spite of the perpetual threat of family strife. In this excerpt from the book, I related how we coped with this omnipresent danger.

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Another source of entertainment for my family was an open reel tape recorder. While I was in Vancouver, Mom purchased it, along with a handful of reels, in order to tape Dad's tirades and play them to a lawyer or whomever did not believe he behaved as violently as she said. The machine was rarely used for its intended purpose but Diane and I thoroughly enjoyed using it. Hearing our voices coming out of the speaker was a sublime experience which kept us entranced for hours.

Diane interviewed me with the recorder one afternoon. First, I related how my day went when I left Jericho for Christmas vacation and how I met Dad at the airport.

"What did you eat for dinner on Friday night?" she asked next.

"Oh, the usual - fish and chips - but for dessert I think we had bananas instead of apples." "Sounds delicious."

"You bet." I said that about the bananas, not the supper.

"Have you been in the indoor swimming pool?" Diane continued.

"Yeah. I've been in there lots of times."

"Can you go ice skating?"

"No."

"Too bad."

"Do you play the piano?"

"Well, yeah, but I feel like quitting."

That recording was the only one to survive from the holiday. Because we only had a few reels of tape, we continually reused them.

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Deliverance from Jericho is filled with many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Read more about Deliverance from Jericho here. Please feel free to contact me directly as well.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

THE PRESENT THAT MEANT SO MUCH.

Have you ever given someone a gift that meant immeasurably more to that person than you ever expected it would? Though it eventually broke, the Christmas gift that my dad gave me in 1966 touched me deeply. This man, usually at the bar with his buddies, showed at least some recognition of how much I yearned to be with him. Perhaps he, in his sober moments, realized the bond all boys feel with their fathers.

This short excerpt from Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) is one of many which demonstrated how deeply those rare acts of kindness from Dad touched me.

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I associated Volkswagens with my father because he had always driven that make of vehicle. Even though he was an alcoholic, I felt great affection for him. Consequently, when I opened my gifts on Christmas morning, I was delighted to find a battery-powered metallic brown toy Volkswagen.

"I would have given you a blue one but the store didn't have that colour," Dad informed me. Though it was brown, I treasured that toy.

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Deliverance from Jericho is filled with many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Read more about Deliverance from Jericho here. Please feel free to contact me directly as well.

Friday, 23 December 2011

BUNNIES AND KIDS DON'T MIX WELL.

Unless a person is knowledgeable and willing to take care of an animal of any sort, never give one as a gift. I know this sounds harsh but it's for the creature's own well-being that I make this statement. Animals aren't toys but creatures with feelings and emotions. Rabbits are especially sensitive to noise and commotion. A pet given to somebody on a whim often ends up at a shelter or dead.

In When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies), I wrote of the time when my sister, Diane, visited me with her two children. Like rabbits, I likewise dread noise and commotion. To my great relief, Logan and Linda behaved themselves. Here's how the visit went.

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Two days before Christmas, Diane and her children visited us. Harry was the first to greet them. He let Linda and Logan pet him and didn't seem too concerned. I was glad because he had hidden in the past whenever company stopped by.

Neutrino was the next rabbit they met. As we sat in the living room, he went up and sniffed the new humans in his domain.

"What's that stuff on his whiskers?" Logan asked.

I told him that Neutrino had something wrong with his nose and that it made him sneeze a lot.

Logan was full of questions.

"How come his fur is brown on his neck?"

"That's just the way it is," Diane explained. "Different breeds of rabbits have different colours of fur?just like cows."

"Does he drink all that?" Logan asked, pointing to two water bottles.

"That's to keep the tunnel still," I informed him. "Poor Neutrino doesn't like it when it keeps rolling away on him."

Then Logan wanted to know how to pick up a rabbit.

Because he was leery of small animals, I demonstrated with Neutrino by placing my hands under the bunny's chest and around his knees. Then I hugged his furry body close to my chest, so he couldn't wriggle.

"I wanna see him hop," Logan demanded.

I was tempted to tell him that would be cruel, but then Diane said, "Leave him alone. He'll hop if he wants to."

She took a few photos of us all, then we went to see Gideon.

"Look at his weird red eyeball!? Logan blurted, when he saw the bunny in my bedroom doorway.

Diane explained that some animals had red eyes and were called albinos.

As Logan petted Gideon's head, the bunny nervously pulled his ears together.

"How come he keeps doing that?" Logan wanted to know.

"Gideon's just nervous," I explained. "He's never met you before. That's why he's worried."

As Diane and her children were getting ready to leave, Linda admired my china cupboard full of bunny teapots and other things.

"You sure must love rabbits," she commented.

I wanted to explain to her how much those bunnies meant to me, but Diane needed to leave right away. I'm sure my three lads felt relieved once the company had left. Though I missed talking to Diane about the old days when we were kids, I breathed a sigh of relief as I made lunch and petted my lads.

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When a Man Loves a Rabbit is filled with many more fascinating stories of life with house bunnies. These vignettes range from the tragic to the hilarious. You're also welcome to contact me directly for more information.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

HAY IS HAY, RIGHT?

To most people, hay is hay. They don't know the difference between Alfalfa and grass hays such as Brome or Timothy. But there is a huge difference, one more importantly that impacts the health of pet rabbits.

Alfalfa is a legume, not a type of grass. The digestive system of rabbits is geared toward the low levels of nutrition and carbohydrates found in grass. Alfalfa contains much more of both supplying too much for a bunny to metabolize. The excess ends up as fat. Alfalfa, particularly the pelleted form, is geared toward fattening livestock in the prime of their lives.

As rabbits age, they need less nutrition and carbohydrates for growth. Like humans, overweight bunnies suffer from arthritis, congestive heart failure, and many other geriatric illnesses.

As I wrote in When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies), I deliberately searched for growers of grass hay. I understood that my bunny, Gideon, needed roughage from a non-Alfalfa hay. My diligent search was rewarded, as this excerpt from my book shows.

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When December arrived, I discovered that I was almost out of hay. While talking with the woman who ran a grocery store, I learned about a farmer who grew the grass kind, not Alfalfa. I called the number and the farmer delivered the bails later that week. He only charged five dollars each and since he was so kind in hauling them to my house, I gave him a five-dollar tip.

I had taken a risk buying three bails, but fortunately the bunnies liked the hay. Poor Harry still had bouts of diarrhea and the grass hay seemed to help lessen them.

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When a Man Loves a Rabbit is filled with many more fascinating stories of life with house bunnies. These vignettes range from the tragic to the hilarious. You're also welcome to contact me directly for more information.

Friday, 16 December 2011

ANOTHER PARTY POOPED.

A pox on these people who spoil parties! We've all known bossy individuals who had to make false accusations or order others around. Even worse, these sort of party-goers never seem to understand how odious they are to the rest.

I had little choice but to endure the rudeness of two attenders at a dorm party in December of 1968. In Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), I wrote about the time two disagreeable people ruined what could have been an enjoyable evening. This is what happened.

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The supervisors held a Christmas party in the study one evening. The intermediate and senior girls were invited along with the senior boys. As I enjoyed a piece of chocolate cake, Mr. Moiarty said, "Take those and offer them around to the other kids." I hastily ate the piece I chose and walked around the room with the tray. I resented being imposed upon without warning but I obeyed.

Once I finished, I sat down. "Why did you have to take a bite out of my cake?" Tracy accused.

"I didn't do that," I protested. She turned her back and ignored me as I explained that I never touched her piece. "So much for the Christmas spirit," I thought.

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Deliverance from Jericho is filled with many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Read more about Deliverance from Jericho here. Please feel free to contact me directly as well.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

AN UNWELCOME "TIN ANGEL" AT A CHRISTMAS PARTY.


Parties are supposed to be fun and Christmas parties especially so, right? I discovered that isn't always the case. The guests at one school party were less than charitable toward me and a record I wanted played.

From Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here's what happened when I foolishly asked that my favourite disk be played to the end.

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It seemed as if I missed out on a fair amount of local news. No one told me that Jericho had a Student's Union until the organization held a Christmas party in the Music Room. Tracy and her blond senior dorm friend Patricia were the main supporters of the Union. Consequently, I felt absolutely no desire to join it.

I took a few of my favourite records, which I brought from home that autumn, to the party. Mom had recently purchased a big bag of seven-inch disks for a dime. Some of those obscure rock bands were surprisingly good.

Since I adored the song called "Tin Angel", I asked Patricia, who was the DJ, to play it. That was a mistake since the song lasted more than five minutes. Everybody, especially Patricia, wanted the record taken off halfway through the song but I begged to hear the whole tune. She reluctantly complied but I heard several partiers nearby sigh. Those less-than-subtle hints took much of the pleasure out of hearing my favourite song.

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Deliverance from Jericho is filled with many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Read more about Deliverance from Jericho here. Please feel free to contact me directly as well.

Friday, 9 December 2011

ADVENTURES IN ELECTRONIC MUSIC.

I've blogged in the past about my love of electronic music, a genre not well known to most people. In fact, the work of one pioneering band of musicians from Germany inspired me to compose my own pieces. Though I'm far from being an accomplished musician, I did create some fascinating sonic landscapes. Some of my compositions were aired on radio stations in cities such as Moscow, Warsaw, Paris, and Helsinki.

In When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies), I briefly mentioned my passion for this synthesizer-oriented music. Here's an excerpt that explains how I combined my twin loves of electronic music and bunnies.

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Over the past fifteen years, I had composed and recorded my own form of experimental music. My passion for that genre began in 1975 when I became an instant fan of Kraftwerk, a German electronic music group. I heard their hit, Autobahn, played on 630 CHED, Edmonton's rock music radio station, and I bought their first three albums.

Listening to them, I felt inspired to create my own sonic textures. Other electronic artists intimidated me with their racks of expensive synthesizers, but Kraftwerk's earlier music could be produced even by poor musicians.

During the late seventies, I had tinkered with various circuits and acoustic sound-making devices in my home. It was for my own amusement and I never mentioned it to my friends
because I never dreamed that anybody would be interested in my sort of compositions.

In December 1984, I discovered a program on CJSR radio called Departures. The host Marcel Dion played all sorts of fascinating compositions and he invited "home tapers" to submit their music for broadcast.

In March, 1985, believing that my work might have a chance of being played, I copied all of my experiments onto a cassette and hand-delivered it to Marcel while he was doing his program.

Those early recordings were very primitive, but as time passed, I bought better gear and improved my technique. During the summer of 1998, and in honour of my beloved Gideon, I recorded an album called Lagomorph.

The title refers to the family of animals comprising of rabbits, hares and pikas. When I visited a web page containing the word rabbit in different languages, I decided to title each of my new tunes with those names. It took me a few months to record and manufacture the album at home, partly due to my freelance writing work and also because of other interruptions.

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When a Man Loves a Rabbit is filled with many more fascinating stories of life with house bunnies. These vignettes range from the tragic to the hilarious. Read more about this memoir here. You're also welcome to contact me directly for more information.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

I WAS SOAKED IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE.

Time, money, loyalty, - I gave them all willingly to Thee Church (as I thought of it). And what did I get in return? The elders criticized and mislead me for more than fifteen years.

As I previously posted, I was a naive convert with no clue that not all who claim the name of Christ had my eternal welfare in mind. In this excerpt from my upcoming How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity memoir, here is the first example of the erroneous expectations which the elders placed upon me - beginning at my baptism on this date in 1971.

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"Here's a bathrobe, Bruce," Sister Roberta said after the hymn. "Go upstairs to Sister Eileen's bathroom and change into your bathing suit."

When I walked into the church a few minutes later, I saw Brother Herald waiting by the tank for me. He and Jay removed the comforters and lid. Then Sister Roberta lifted a short wooden step ladder that stood to the left of the tank, lowered it into the water, and held it steady. Brother Herald and I removed our bathrobes and Sister Eileen placed them on the freezer. I took note of the way Brother Herald climbed into the tank so I wouldn't embarrass myself. Then I followed him in.

"We are gathered here tonight to witness the baptism into the name of Christ of this new member," Brother Herald intoned to the four congregants standing by the tank. "Let us pray. Lord Jesus, be with this young man as he accepts baptism into your family. In Jesus' name we pray this. Amen."

"Bruce," he gave me a penetrating stare, "are you ready to receive the baptism of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins?"

"Yes, I am ready to receive the baptism of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins."

"Then, in Jesus' name, I baptize you into the name of Christ. Receive the Holy Ghost."

I pinched my nostrils closed as Brother Herald pushed me backwards and held me under the water for a few seconds.

"Start speaking in tongues," Sister Roberta exhorted as my head broke the surface. Everybody except Brother Herald jabbered as I stood, awaiting the promised Holy Spirit to manifest.

"Come on, Bruce," Sister Eileen urged. "You've got to speak in tongues. Just say anything and let the Spirit take control."

"How do I do that? What if I say something wrong and don't know it?"

"Just let the Holy Spirit guide your tongue."

I spoke a few nonsense syllables as if to jump start the process but I sensed no supernatural change.

"Hallelujah! He's starting to speak in tongues," Sister Roberta blurted. This sent the congregants into an accelerated frenzy of babbling. In spite of all their efforts, I remained mute.

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How I Was Razed is my testimony of how charismatic house church elders misled me for more than fifteen years. After leaving that congregation and turning my back on God for almost a decade, due to the lies that the cult taught about him, he revealed his true nature to me. I now realize how blasphemous that house church's doctrines were.

Check out my previous memoirs here. You're also welcome to contact me directly for more information.

Friday, 2 December 2011

LIKE A LAM TO THE SLAUGHTER.

It happens all the time. Some charismatic preacher sets up a church and claims to have direct revelations from God Almighty. Instead of targeting unbelievers, these wolves dressed in shepherd costumes prey upon naive converts.

Forty years ago, I was one of those wandering sheep. No mature Christian discipled me so I had no idea of what was true or false. This excerpt from my How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity memoir shows how I was seduced by a false teacher.

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Three people looked me over as they sat at a rickety, brown card table in front of the pulpit.

"This is Sister Roberta and Sister Eileen," Jay said as he gestured toward a silver-haired woman wearing a flower print dress and her brunette daughter in a beige blouse and slacks. "And this is our minister, Brother Herald," he gestured toward a short, bullet-shaped man at the head of the table who sat with his back to the pulpit. He wore gold wire-rimmed glasses, a brown dress shirt, and grey suspenders with matching dress pants. His greyish-brown hair and moustache made him appear younger than his sixty-six years.

"We're about to start the meeting," Sister Roberta announced. "You better pull up a chair and sit down."

At first, Brother Herald's teaching style perturbed me. He spoke in a low monotonous rumble for many minutes, then his voice abruptly rose in volume and pitch as he pounded the table for effect. After startling us all, his voice dropped back to its normal level. This, and his laboured breathing, made listening a challenge in the beginning but I soon adjusted to his mannerisms.

By the end of the meeting, this man's preaching captivated me. I can't remember the subject of that particular lesson but I recall thinking that he explained arcane mysteries which ordinary ministers never preached. Only Garner Ted and Herbert W. Armstrong taught such revelatory doctrines on their radio and television programs called The World Tomorrow. Like Christ's audience when he finished preaching the "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 7:28 and 29, a sense of awe gripped me.

Though I gave my life to Christ at a Vacation Bible School in 1969, nobody discipled me until that evening. This was Thee Church, and my spiritual home, as I came to think of it.

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How I Was Razed is my testimony of how charismatic house church elders misled me for more than fifteen years. After leaving that congregation and turning my back on God for almost a decade, due to the lies that the cult taught about him, he revealed his true nature to me. I now realize how blasphemous that house church's doctrines were.

Check out my previous memoirs here. You're also welcome to contact me directly for more information.

Monday, 28 November 2011

WHAT HARM COULD A PEACE SYMBOL DO?

Remember when people drew peace symbols in the sixties? Believe it or not, certain superstitious Christians believed that drawing one was an evil act. Moreover, they taught this superstitious nonsense to impressionable disciples as if it was some sort of commandment from God Almighty.

This was one of many ridiculous doctrines that I learned at a cultic house church. Being new to the faith, I didn't know what was biblical and what was bologna. Wanting with all of my heart to please God, I obeyed these sometimes painful injunctions.

Here's an excerpt from my upcoming How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity memoir that shows not only how credulous I was but how misguided those church members were.

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Because nobody discipled me until I joined Thee Church, the Christian faith seemed to consist of many arbitrary customs and prohibitions. One of these was the drawing of certain symbols.

A few years previously, a cereal company offered free booklets depicting famous scenes from N.H.L. hockey games in each box. When the pages were flipped, the players seemed to move. Though I hated sports, I became enamoured with the concept of still pictures being arranged to produce a short animation.

During my first month at Jay and Linda's home, I realized that I too could make my own animated booklets. Whenever I had an evening with no homework to do, I sat at the kitchen table and drew each frame of my short animations. One of them displayed a peace symbol rolling like a wheel.

"Look at this, Jay. Isn't it cool?" I said after showing him how to animate the pictures.

He frowned at the booklet and then at me.

"You shouldn't draw this. Peace symbols are evil."

"Evil? How come?"

"It's an ancient pagan fertility sign. Christians should have nothing to do with it because it's of the Devil."

Not knowing any better, I sighed as I dropped my creation into the garbage and refrained from drawing peace symbols.

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How I Was Razed is my testimony of how charismatic house church elders misled me for more than fifteen years. After leaving that congregation and turning my back on God for almost a decade, due to the lies that the cult taught about him, he revealed his true nature to me. I now realize how blasphemous that house church's doctrines were.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Why books need pictures.

Imagine if you couldn't read but you wished you could. Because I had no magnifying glass when I was a child, I could only enjoy the illustrations in regular print books. I was fortunate that the library at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind had a number of these with well-drawn illustrations. The multiple shelves of stories and encyclopedias would have been of no help to me otherwise.

I wrote about my discovery of the library's treasures in my Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir. Its books helped me endure the painful autumn of 1967 .

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In addition to studying, I began to borrow books from the school library. One described the lives of cavemen, including plenty of exciting drawings. I felt strongly tempted not to return the book. The print was too small for me to easily read without a magnifying glass but I did enjoy the illustrations. Of course, I eventually returned it.

The pictures in the dorm's encyclopedia were interesting to look at as well but the print was far too small to read. I especially liked leafing through the volume with the clear plastic pages displaying the human anatomy. Various internal organs were painted on each sheet. As I turned pages, I could see different parts of the body revealed.

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Deliverance from Jericho is filled with many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Read more about Deliverance from Jericho here. Please feel free to contact me directly as well.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

LIKE A VOICE FROM ONE'S HOMELAND

To an exile, hearing news from home is wonderful. I believe that I've earned the right to understand that feeling. When I was a child, the government of Alberta and British Columbia sent me to an institution because they assumed that I couldn't be taught at my local public school. Because I was among strangers in a strange province, I feel justified in empathising with outcasts and deportees.

In Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), I wrote about how radio became my best friend in that uncaring asylum. It kept me sane and helped me momentarily forget how far from home I was.

One day in November of 1969, it also brought the feeling of home to me. Here's how that happened.

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The atmospheric conditions also provided a different type of sublime experience. On another foggy afternoon, I sat on my bed while tuning the dial of the vacuum tube radio. Suddenly, I discovered distant stations coming in. That was unusual since they generally were heard only at night. As I turned the tuning knob, I heard CFRN, one of the Edmonton radio stations. It seemed like a voice from home. A delightful nostalgia filled my heart. For that brief time, I felt connected to the place I loved.

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Deliverance from Jericho is filled with many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Read more about Deliverance from Jericho here. Please feel free to contact me directly as well.

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Deliverance from Jericho is filled with many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Read more about Deliverance from Jericho here. Please feel free to contact me directly as well.

Friday, 18 November 2011

THE COMPANIONSHIP OF ISOLATION.

How can being isolated from people be sublime? When a person lives among uncaring strangers, being alone becomes a better restorative than merriment. The gospels record how Christ often left his disciples and spent hours communing with his heavenly Father in the wilderness. On occasions, we all need a break from our humdrum circumstances.

In November of 1969, I had an experience that seemed to transcend my mundane world of supervisors and dorm mates. It was as if I stepped into a different dimension or into another world.

This excerpt from Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) describes how I came to sense something awesome for a brief moment.

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One asset of being a child is the gift of imagination which became very real to me one murky Saturday morning in the fog that Vancouver commonly experienced. I decided it might be fun to venture out onto the lawn below Tyler House.

"You better be careful not to get lost," Michael cautioned as I put on my coat.

"I won't," I assured him, "I can always just keep going until I come to a fence".

It was an awesome eerie experience as I walked until all the scenery vanished behind me. At one point, I stood on the lawn with no landmarks visible. All I could see in every direction was a twenty-foot circle of grass and the light grey fog. It was as if I was in my own little world. I imagined how wonderful it would be to have a planet all to myself where; no one would dominate or bother me. For a second however, a chill of fear went through me. I became unsure where I was in relation to the dorm. Then I remembered that I could walk to the top of the hill and find the dorm eventually.

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Deliverance from Jericho is filled with many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Read more about Deliverance from Jericho here. Please feel free to contact me directly as well.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

SEE FOOTBALL THROUGH MY EYES.

Imagine if you went to a football game but you couldn't see the field or hear a play-by-play announcer describing the action. Would you patiently sit there for a few hours or demand your money back?

This scenario isn't as far-fetched as you might think. My blind schoolmates and I endured hours of boredom at various sports events. We had no choice in the matter either. Supervisors and administrators decided we needed to attend games and that was that.

In my Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I wrote about one occasion when everybody at the game became unable to see the field. For a while, they experienced the same tedium we did at those outings.

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It was a rare occasion when the sighted public found themselves in the same situation as us visually impaired students. Our supervisors periodically took us to various UBC football and hockey games on weekday evenings and weekends. On one particular sunlit Saturday afternoon, Mr. Moiarty ordered everybody into the school bus. I sat in the bleachers and fumed as the game began. Football appeared to be a waste of a beautiful day. Since our supervisor seated us fairly high up, all I could see were tiny coloured blurs moving around the turf.

As I waited for the game to end, I noticed fog begin to obscure the field. It soon became so dense that play was stopped. I burst out laughing. For once, the sighted spectators and I were in the same position. Everyone needed to wait for the fog bank to roll through before play could resume.

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Deliverance from Jericho is filled with many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Read more about Deliverance from Jericho here. Please feel free to contact me directly as well.

Friday, 11 November 2011

A REMEMBRANCE OF A LIFE LESSON.

We certainly have it good here in North America, even with the economy stagnating for the past few years. The blessings of peaceful prosperity that we've enjoyed for decades came at the price of the blood, sweat, tears, and lives of our military.

Because of these perennial benefits, children tend to think that they're entitled to have whatever they desire. I know this because I once felt that way when i was young.

From Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here's a turning point in my life when I learned that there are no free snacks, let alone lunch.

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During that autumn, I learned the hard way that life did not owe me a living. The weekend supervisor, a loud-voiced, heavy set, middle-aged, authoritarian whom I shall call Mr. Moiarty, took us to the beach one November afternoon. We walked along a road, which ran parallel to the ocean, for a few hours. We finally stopped at a kiosk selling candy and chips.

"Could you buy me one of these?" I asked our supervisor and pointed at the chocolate bars.

"Use your own money; I'm not your dad. This isn't the little kids dorm. You're supposed to buy your own candy. You can't expect people to always buy everything for you, you know," he chided. Mr. Moiarty's rebuke stung. I foolishly hoped some measure of grace would be extended to us and we could have a few more treats than usual but I realized then that I must make do with my allowance and could not expect help from others.

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Deliverance from Jericho is filled with many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Read more about Deliverance from Jericho here. Please feel free to contact me directly as well.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

BEWARE OF FLYING HOCKEY PUCKS.

As I've written before on my blog, supervisors and teachers at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind frequently took us to events which we couldn't enjoy due to our disability. Their "good deeds" were only for show. Escorting us to the Ice Capades, the circus, and sports events certainly must have looked good on their reports and created a favourable impression in the minds of their superiors. I'm sure that some of those civil servants meant well. For us though, outings meant sitting on hard benches for hours while the fully-sighted audience enjoyed the spectacle.

Though I hated sports when I was young, I was allowed to keep a souvenir from one game that I was forced to attend. Here's an excerpt from Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) that tells how a hockey puck became mine one November afternoon.

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During one game, my boredom was abruptly interrupted. As I sat and yearned for the end of the third period, an object hit my chest and landed in the row in front of me. "Hey, it's a hockey puck," Brian exclaimed as he picked it up.

"So that's what hit my chest," I said as I rubbed the spot.

Brian pondered the puck in his hand and then said, "Well, I guess it should be yours since you're the one who got hit by it."

Though I thought the sport was a complete waste of time and effort, I felt excited to actually hold a real puck which was used in a game. That was one item I felt proud to take home from Vancouver to show my family.

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Deliverance from Jericho is filled with many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Read more about Deliverance from Jericho here. Please feel free to contact me directly as well.

Friday, 4 November 2011

VANDALS ALWAYS HAVE TO RUIN IT FOR THE REST.

We've all experienced this, haven't we? Authorities revoke a wonderful privilege or ban a device because of one unthinking individual's rash behaviour. Our sense of injustice is multiplied when the perpetrator of the mischief receives little or no punishment.

This excerpt from Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) shows how an expensive machine was ruined by one boy's bone-headed stunt.

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This room also contained a primitive print enlarging machine. Light from an incandescent bulb illuminated the page and lenses in a box projected it to a white translucent screen. This made reading more enjoyable. Furthermore, I discovered I could see my drawings in greater detail. Volcanoes were what I passionately enjoyed sketching at the time. I created my own "television shows" based on what I drew. I loved that machine and used it often that autumn.

I felt devastated when Jimmy yielded to a destructive urge and jumped off the top of the bookshelf one Saturday. He deliberately put his foot through that remarkable print enlarger. I don't recall if Jimmy received punishment for his vandalism but the school removed the machine and they never replaced it.

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Deliverance from Jericho is filled with many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Read more about Deliverance from Jericho here. Please feel free to contact me directly as well.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

THE GREAT CANDY CONTEST OF 1967.

Now that all the trick-or-treating is over, children across North America have an ample supply of goodies. Even so, parents usually dole out candies, peanuts, and other snacks to their children during the first weeks of this month. Though kids would rather eat as much of their halloween swag as they want, they understand that this rationing is for their own good.

In this excerpt from Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), my fellow dorm mates and I received the rare privilege of keeping all of our halloween stash. This is what we wisely decided to do with our windfall.

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Those of us who were new to the dorm felt pleasantly surprised when no supervisor confiscated our goodies. For the first time at Jericho, the authorities actually trusted us with our Halloween treats. I stashed mine in my locker and rejoiced that my candies were not seized "for my own good."

"I don't know about you guys but I'm going to try and make my candies last," I announced the next evening.

"Yeah, let's have a contest to see who can make theirs last the longest," Geoffrey encouraged. All four of us roommates agreed and carefully hoarded our bootie. Though we had a monumental struggle to resist the siren call of the treats in our lockers, I felt proud of myself for being one of the last to run out of candy.

I grudgingly ate the apples first to prevent them from going bad, remembering all those "starving children in India" lectures from grownups. Apples weren't much of a treat compared to chocolates, popcorn balls, peanuts, caramel kisses, and other sweets but they were better than nothing.

This process of sorting and hoarding taught me to conserve my candy and make it last for a couple of weeks. Every single one of us prized the privilege of being trusted with our treats and did not want to lose it by becoming ill from overeating.

We did, however, yield to temptation in another matter. Weeks passed as we waited impatiently for someone to collect the UNICEF money boxes. I felt no qualms when I spent those pennies since I rationalized we were needy children too and deserved the cash. The other boys shamelessly spent their UNICEF donations as well.

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Deliverance from Jericho is filled with many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Read more about Deliverance from Jericho here. Please feel free to contact me directly as well.

Friday, 28 October 2011

KINDNESS FROM THE CRUEL.

In previous blog posts, I've written and provided book excerpts about the cultic church I once attended. Though its members wounded my spirit many times with criticisms and assumptions about my supposed moral failings, they did help me from time to time as well. From How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity, here is one example where the church leaders came to my rescue.

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The elders of Thee Church likewise demonstrated their care for me by celebrating my eighteenth birthday. After supper one Wednesday afternoon, Sister E handed me a bulky package. Inside it was a greyish-green down-filled winter parka with a blond fur trim on its hood.

"You looked so cold in that old, brown jacket your dad gave you so we bought this for you," Sister E said as I admired the coat.

"Thanks," I said as gratitude overwhelmed me. "This is really nice." When I tried it on, it fit well.

"Brother H also wrote a poem for you in this card," Sister R said as she handed it to me.

In my room later that evening, I opened up the envelope, pulled out the card, and studied it under my magnifying glass. Inside a boarder of flowers, Sister R typed several verses of Brother H's doggerel. Though he wrote about facing the trials of life, I burst out laughing at one line which read, "At least we know there's a man in there."

This act of kindness touched me deeply. In spite of Sister R's perennial criticism and Brother H's claim that I chose to have poor sight, the church leaders showed they cared about me.

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How I Was Razed is the testimony of how a cultic house church misled me, how I turned my back on God after I felt he perennially failed to heal my eyes, and how he graciously brought me to my senses. Feel free to click here to e-mail me for more information about my books.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

NEVER ASK A LADY'S AGE?

One thing I never understood when I was young was why everybody could ask my age but I couldn't ask how old a grown-up was. This hypocrisy was dramatically brought to my attention when I was sent to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind. I lacked the space to include this story in Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) so I'm relating it here.

I forget where we were headed that hazy Saturday morning in October of 1964 but I remember that I and the others were going for a walk around the grounds with Mrs. Sandyford. She was our weekend supervisor. As we walked, she asked our ages.

Knowing little of the social morays of adults at the time, I innocently asked, "How old are you, Mrs. Sandyford?"

"You should never ask a lady's age," she admonished. "It's not polite."

"How come?"

"Well," she faltered, "you just shouldn't, that's all. Women don't like to be asked how old they are."

"How come?" I insisted.

She turned to another child and began talking to him. The way she wouldn't look at me and the tone in her voice suggested that I was being a naughty boy. I decided not to ask her any more questions.

Though women today are more open and less vain about their ages, I still am cautious about asking such personal questions. It really doesn't matter how old a person is in years. Maturity of attitude is the important factor in a person's character. I've met some mature children and some immature adults in my five decades of life. My hope is that I'm one person who others feel has learned wisdom.

Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this compelling story. You're also welcome to contact me directly.

Friday, 21 October 2011

HUNTING FOR RARE GAME.

In past posts, I've mentioned my passion for radio. It began with my discovery of distant stations on my dad's car radio when I was ten years old and continues to this day. Because my memoirs deal with subjects other than distant signal reception, referred to by radio aficionados as DX, I haven't been able to write much about this infatuation.

One aspect of hunting for DX is travelling to remote locations that are free of man-made interference. When I learned that my cousin, Wayne, was going hunting near Lodgepole in October of 1984, I begged a ride with him.

In a clearing along a cut line, I erected a seventy-foot-long wire antenna and connected it to my general coverage receiver which I powered with a car battery. While Wayne hunted moose, I tracked down exotic stations. Just as the fresh autumn air invigorated me, so did the crystal-clear reception of stations which I could barely hear back home.

At our makeshift camp site, I often let my cousin listen to the radio. This occasionally lead to some strange situations. As we ate breakfast early one morning, I tuned in a station from Papua New Guinea. To my astonishment, the announcer began playing country music. There we were, two Canadians in the Alberta wilderness, listening to American country tunes from a station on the other side of the Pacific ocean.

Another memorable radio moment happened one night when I picked up a coast guard station in contact with a ship somewhere in the Pacific. Somebody on board it was hurt and needed a doctor. The radio man could barely speak English and the American on shore could barely understand the sailor's accent. If it wasn't a serious situation, it would have been comical.

My uncle, Bob, who hunted in a different part of the forest, met us one evening as we relaxed by the fire. When he asked what I was doing with that fancy radio, I showed him by tuning in Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcaster. Uncle Bob gawked at the set and listened in awestruck silence for a minute. "I can understand that," he exclaimed as a news announcer droned on in German. "I can understand everything he's saying. How can you pick up a signal all the way from Germany?" he marvelled.

I couldn't even begin to explain the intricacies of F2 radio wave propagation to him so I said, "Signals like that always come in like that on the short wave bands."

I felt sad at the end of the week when we packed up and drove toward Edmonton. Though Wayne came back empty-handed, I had the fulfilling experience of listening to far away stations free of annoying buzzes from TV sets and power lines.

When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) contain more examples of my love affair with radio. Click here to read more about these compelling memoirs. You may also contact me directly for further information about my books.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

YOU KNOW YOUR DAD IS A CHEAPSKATE WHEN....

When children of middle income families apply for welfare because their parents are too stingy to give them enough to live on, it's disgraceful. Though the Bible does teach that we should honour our parents, it also says that a person who doesn't care for his own is worse than an infidel. At the risk of dishonouring my father, here's why I ended up on the dole.

In October of 1974, I visited the Alberta Social Services office. The woman who interviewed me that afternoon began by asking why I was applying for Social Assistance. I explained that I attended a high school in edmonton that had special counsellors. They were tasked with helping visually-impaired students by reading assignments onto tape and assisting them in filling out test papers. My parents lived in Fort Saskatchewan, twenty miles north of the city. Due to the rapid rise of inflation the previous year, my allowance from my father barely paid the rent or bought enough food to fill me.

I gave her my address but when she asked for my phone number, I admitted that I couldn't afford one. After she sent another woman to visit my tiny furnished room to ensure that I was telling the truth, she gave me food vouchers and a cheque for the next month's rent.

I felt humiliated the first time I purchased groceries with a voucher. People behind me sighed and shuffled their feet impatiently as the cashier filled out the form and had me sign it. In spite of that humiliation, I finally had enough food to satisfy my teenage apatite.

Once I cashed the cheque, I set about to make my life easier. I had a telephone installed, bought an orange cardigan, and began buying fresh produce rather than the cheapest items in the store. No longer did I have to buy mint jelly because it was twenty cents cheaper than a jar of jam. Meat became a regular part of my diet. I could even afford the occasional block of cheese. Though I was dependent on the government, having money for the good things in life cheered me greatly.

In my Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) and my upcoming How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity memoirs, I mentioned my penury during those high school years. In upcoming blog posts, I'll be writing about topics that I could only hint at due to space limitations in those paperbacks. Read more about these compelling memoirs here. You're welcome to contact me directly for more information about my books.

Friday, 14 October 2011

A QUESTION OF QUESTIONABLE QUESTIONING.

Perhaps some folks will disagree with me but I believe having partial vision is, in many ways, worse than being totally blind. Fully sighted folks seem better able to comprehend total blindness better than poor vision.

Throughout my life, I've had to explain my level of vision. Neighbourhood kids, mimicking parents and other sighted adults, held up fingers and asked me to count them. I hated that. It made me feel like some sort of freak. They also threw stones at me while calling, "blindie, and "four eyes." No wonder I often played alone.

My school days were likewise filled with incidents where pupils and teachers felt uncertain about what I could or couldn't see. At first, I was allowed to draw pictures and play with plasticine because the teacher believed I couldn't possibly be taught anything. When I started learning aurally, she showed me off to the principal as if some sort of miracle happened.

My freedom came to an end in 1964 when a government agent convinced my parents to send me to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind. They, never suspecting the institution's endemic sexual harassment of deaf children, sent me there for six long years. I only came home for Christmas, summer, and three Easters. Because the bar magnifying glasses they had there weren't of any help to me, somebody decided I should learn braille. I objected since I had enough vision to read with an eight power magnifying glass. My teachers soon gave up on me and let me read large print.

On September 16, 2011, I blogged about the pathetic vision aids that were provided to me by my parents in junior high and high school. My visual arts teacher gave me the first decent magnifying glass, a type similar to what jewellers use. Though some thug cut the combination lock on my locker and stole it, along with the monocular which I read the blackboard with, I managed to find similar visual aids through the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).

I've also experienced similar challenges to my truthfulness in several workplaces and in personal relationships throughout my adult life. These are too numerous to mention here.

The crux of the matter is that people feel a sense of unease about me until I demonstrate how much or little I'm able to see. As I've explained in Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) and to a lesser extent in When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies), I see well enough to get around but I can't see details. I have to go close to something to tell what it is. I've also learned that there are always work-arounds to my difficulties. As long as I can, I intend to live as independently as possible.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

PHANTOM VISION AND FALSE EXPECTATIONS.

Self-delusion is a frightening force. It makes normally-rational human beings do the most irrational and monstrous things. From the followers of Jim Jones to the Taliban, the world has witnessed behaviour that no sane person would ever think of doing. Deception results in less-harmful irrationality but its grip is no less powerful.

I'm ashamed to admit it but I was deceived by the name-it-and-claim-it crowd. Not knowing any better, I joined a charismatic cult and became convinced that if I only had enough faith, I would be healed of my poor vision. Even when my left eye hemorrhaged in 1988, I still clung to a faint hope that the Lord would reward my faithfulness by performing a miracle.

From How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity, here is how the illusion of vision in my left eye was shattered by an ophthalmologist's diagnosis.

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"Your hemorrhage is much worse," the doctor said in October. "I'll give you an alcohol block. That will kill the nerves and you won't feel any more pain after that."

"Won't that ruin what little vision I have in it?" I exclaimed

"You don't have any vision in that eye. It's blind."

"It can't be! I can still see light and dark with it."

"I'm telling you, Bruce, it's totally blind. Look," he said as he shone a flashlight in it. "Can you see anything?"

"No," I admitted with great reluctance. "Isn't there any sort of operation to fix it?"

"I'm sorry to say this but it's too far gone. You'll never see out of that eye again. Your pupil doesn't even dilate. Come in next week and I'll inject alcohol in that eyeball."

When I arrived home, I conducted an experiment to find out if the doctor was right. I stared at the chandelier when it was lit, covered my right eye with my hand, and switched off the lights. My left eye still saw a glow for a few seconds. My heart plummeted as I realized the horrible truth. My brain compensated for the blindness by imagining that the eye still saw light. Any hope of it seeing again died that day.

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How I Was Razed is the testimony of how a cultic house church misled me, how I turned my back on God after I felt he perennially failed to heal my eyes, and how he graciously brought me to my senses.

Friday, 7 October 2011

WHEN THEY STOP EATING, START WORRYING.

People generally don't realize that rabbits must keep food flowing through their digestive systems. When they stop eating, toxins build up in their gut, leading to death. I made the mistake long ago of doing nothing about a bunny who stopped eating and he paid for my ignorance with his life. Spurred on by this tragedy, I learned techniques from my PetBunny and alt.pets.rabbits friends that would stimulate a bunny's apetite.

In my When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) memoir, I wrote about the time when one of my long-eared friends worried me when he became gravely ill in 2003. This is what happened when he refused to eat.

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In September, Harry developed his own case of gastro-intestinal stasis. I tried all the home remedies I could think of, but bribing him with lettuce, force-feeding canned pumpkin and rubbing his belly didn't help. The poor guy refused food for a week and I was sure he was going to die.

Then one morning, he had diarrhea. What a relief it was to see! It may sound strange to rejoice over liquid faecal puddles, but the diarrhea indicated that Harry's gut was working again. Of course, the downside was cleaning up the mess and enduring the smell. Still, it was a relief to see him eating heartily. And as a precaution, I made sure he had plenty of fresh hay in his litter box.

The diarrhea continued and poor Harry needed a severe cleaning. In spite of the expense, I took him to the vet for a haircut. He sulked for hours after that, but I felt good that he was free of his matted coat and fouled rear end.

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When a Man Loves a Rabbit contains many more fascinating stories of life with house bunnies. These range from the tragic to the hilarious. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You're also welcome to click here to e-mail me directly for more information.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

HOW I "BAGGED" A SQUIRREL

In the previous post, I described how my house rabbit became alarmed when I put an exercise bike in my bedroom. The sudden appearance of this large foreign object in the place he considered safest completely flustered him. The thought of Gideon's astonishment still makes me chuckle. It reminds me of another time when an innocent prank caused a certain squirrel extreme consternation.

In the autumn of 1975, I boarded at the head office of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in Toronto. After the weekday training and mobility course sessions, our instructors allowed us an hour of leisure time before supper. A fellow student casually remarked to me one afternoon that squirrels lived in the park behind the training centre. Having never seen those animals in the flesh, this gave me an idea. I bought some unsalted peanuts from a local convenience store, went to the park before supper, and scattered a handful around the bench. Then I sat down and waited.

After a minute, I heard rustling noises amid the leaves above me. Two black squirrels climbed timidly down the tree trunks, snatched the peanuts, and ran back up. They soon learned that I was harmless and that I provided a feast whenever I sat in the park. Before long, they not only stayed on the ground but boldly strolled within a foot of me.

My following of bushy-tailed freeloaders grew until I had half a dozen black squirrels, a few grey ones, and a tiny tawny fellow dining confidently at my feet. Encouraged by their acceptance of my hand-outs, I decided to test the limits of how hard they would work for treats. I placed peanuts on my shoe, on the bench next to me, and tossed them directly behind their tails. Finally, I placed a few peanuts in a paper bag and waited to see what would happen.

One bold black squirrel sniffed at the opening, then crawled inside to seize a peanut. Feeling the paper enveloping him, he panicked. The other squirrels scattered as a white object with a black behind zoomed across the lawn, spurred on by my raucous laughter. The moist grass weakened the paper so that it tore, freeing the frightened rodent. He raced for the nearest tree with all thoughts of peanuts forgotten. Though I hadn't intended to "bag" a squirrel that day, the trick provided me with a memorable highlight of my stay in Toronto.

Likewise, I treasure the memories of those pranks I once played on my house rabbits. Many hilarious vignettes, similar to this post, are included in my When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) memoir. Click here to read more about this book. You're also welcome to contact me directly for more information.

Friday, 30 September 2011

INVASION OF THE METAL MONSTER.

Did you know that rabbits are suspicious of any changes in their territory? I discovered this by accident one day when I bought something at a garage sale and put it in my bedroom. Gideon, the house rabbit who taught me so much about his kind, reacted in a completely different way than I imagined when he discovered what I had bought.

From When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies), here's the hilarious story of how my fur friend came nose to wheel with my purchase.

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On the same Saturday that Heather and Jason returned for the bunnies, I went to a neighbourhood garage sale. Among all the items in the driveway was an exercise bike. When I found out that it was only five dollars, I bought it. Then I realized that I'd have to lug it the three blocks back to my home.

As I consoled myself with the fact that it was a nice afternoon and that I had plenty of time, the woman who was looking after the sale took pity on me.

"How far do you live from here?" she asked. I told her."We could give you a lift home if you want."

Accepting her kind offer, I loaded my things into the car and the bike was in my bedroom in a matter of minutes. Meanwhile, Gideon was impatient to be freed from his cage and when I opened the door, he raced out to survey the house?not knowing what waited for him in his territory.

Once my sock hurler arrived at the bedroom door, he froze. The poor guy was shocked and it took him a few minutes to work up the nerve to approach and sniff the bluish-grey metallic monster. I had never before seen his ears so far forward or his pink eyes so wide open. He crept up to the metal invader and acted as if it would pounce on him at any moment. When it didn't move and attack him, he gave it an intense sniffing. A half hour later, Gideon was still leery of it, but eventually he became used to the exercise machine.

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When a Man Loves a Rabbit contains many more fascinating stories of life with house bunnies. These range from the tragic to the hilarious. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

THOSE TRICKS WEREN'T FOR US KIDS.

Children usually forgive tricks played on them by adults. Lying is a different matter. The quickest way for an adult to lose the trust of children is to trick them with a lie and then refuse to apologize for it. I don't need a degree in child psychology to know this is true.

On September 20th, I posted an excerpt from Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) about a singularly disagreeable supervisor charged with our care each weekday. Here's how he retaliated when we complained too much about the early morning runs he forced on us.

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The strain on Mr. Thynne of urging twelve reluctant boys to do his bidding finally took its toll. Everybody groaned and complained so bitterly that he gave up enforcing his exercise plan. He decided that, since we refused to exert ourselves voluntarily, he would trick us into it. We were relaxing after supper when he came rushing in and exclaimed, "There's a fire on Eighth Avenue! Quick! Come and see it! Hurry before it goes out!"

We all ran down the stairs, out of the dorm, and up to the gate in the chain-link fence. Those of us with vision glanced all around for smoke and flames. "Where's the fire?" several of us asked as we strained to detect any sign of a conflagration.

"I just said that to get you guys to exercise," Mr. Thynne admitted. We groaned in unison and trudged sheepishly back to the dorm.

Because Mr. Thynne's conduct and attitude disgusted us, we had no respect for him. We nicknamed our supervisor "pretty boy" and "Mr. Knackers" behind his back. Life was bad enough with Mr. Moiarty on the weekends but now this singularly disagreeable man was running our lives all week.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this compelling story. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.

Friday, 23 September 2011

THE POINT OF NO RETURNING.

Most children dread going back to school. Nevertheless, they accept it as an inevitable part of being a kid. Unlike regular students, I feared being sent back to my former residential institution for a far different reason. Though I attended a public school in Edmonton, beginning in 1970, and went home on weekends, a nagging worry haunted me that I would again be exiled five hundred miles from my family for months at a stretch.

In Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), I described the ecstasy I felt when I suddenly realized that I would never be sent back to that soul-destroying institution. Here's what I wrote.

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The fear of being returned to Jericho lessened as I attended public school but it never quite disappeared. One September afternoon, a sudden realization struck me. The officials could no longer send me back to Jericho. That school only went up to grade ten. During the past two years, I managed to catch up with the rest of my schoolmates.

Because the public school curriculum was a year ahead of Jericho's, I needed to work hard at first in order to earn mediocre marks. Even so, my report cards conclusively proved that I could learn along with my sighted peers. I suddenly realized that I was fully integrated into the public system and had no need to fear being institutionalized again. The joy which swept over me was palpable. I danced around my housekeeping room for five minutes straight, gleeful that I was home to stay. "They can't send me back!" I repeated to myself. That was one of the happiest days of my high school years.

A teacher at Jericho had once told me that exceptional students did receive tutoring for grade eleven and twelve. I would have refused to go back to Jericho in any case since I proved my ability to learn in the public system. I was almost sixteen and conscious that I was a human being with rights. Though I did not matriculate, I passed grade twelve and received my diploma. My heart swelled with pride that I accomplished such a feat.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this compelling story. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

STALAG JERICHO

Would I seem melodramatic if I occasionally refer to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind as a prison camp? It had no armed guards in towers equipped with machine guns. Neither did it have search lights, delousing stations, vicious guard dogs, and barbed wire around the perimeter. How then could I and my dorm mates call it a prison?

In Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), I wrote about the unnatural way we were housed, fed, and poorly educated at that institution. The administrators micromanaged our activities so that we couldn't even go unescorted to the local store to buy chocolate bars. A supervisor took all of us there once a week like prisoners on a day pass. One particularly nasty "dorm parent" treated us like POWs, as I point out in the following excerpt.

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Back at the dorm, we had a new weekday supervisor whom I shall call Mr. Thynne. He was a tall man in his twenties, whose voice had an annoying whining quality to it. Everyone hated him almost instantly. One of his first unpopular ideas was to make us run up and down Eighth Avenue at seven o'clock in the morning.

The rising sun appeared as red as our eyes felt when we dressed hurriedly. "Come on, you lazy bums," he goaded as we struggled into our clothes, "You boys need to get your exercise."

When everybody lined up at the gate, he addressed us like a drill sergeant. "Listen to me. You boys will run each morning for fifteen minutes. It's not gonna kill you to do a little running." When we began to murmur, he said, "Stop whining. You boys don't get enough exercise so I'm going to make sure you do."

After the first few mornings of these pre-breakfast runs, even Charlie grumbled. Mr. Thynne refused to heed our pleas for rest and resorted to insults whenever we slowed down.

Michael summed up our feelings eloquently after one morning jog. "He's running this place like a bloody prison camp." All of us heartily agreed.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this compelling story. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.

Friday, 16 September 2011

A SHORT-SIGHTED APPROACH TO PROVIDING VISION AIDS.

Why didn't my parents buy me even basic visual aids before I attended grade eight? Any thinking person would have figured out that a boy with poor sight would need a monocular to read the blackboard and a proper magnifying glass for reading the textbooks. It wasn't until mid September of 1970 before my parents did anything to get the adaptive tools I needed.

From Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here is how I had to scrounge together or do without visual aids when I was reintegrated into the public school system.

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I was ill-equipped, from a visual aids standpoint, to enter the public system. Since teachers scrawled assignments on the blackboard without verbalizing what they wrote, I needed to ask somebody what the teacher had written. Mom solved this difficulty when she took me to the CNIB to purchase a monocular. This visual aid magnified distant objects, allowing me to read the blackboard.

Some solutions to my visual aids deficiency were improvised. When my landlady gave me a couple of magnifying glasses, neither one enlarged print to the size I needed. Then I made a discovery. If I placed both together, the text book print became legible. A few years later, Mom arranged for an optometrist to grind a strong magnifying glass for me. That made reading even easier since I did not need to hold both glasses together.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this compelling story. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME.

How many times have you rushed into something, then regretted it for years? This problem is common to all of us. Some people, including me, get fired up about some activity and become obsessed with involving others in it. Then reality sets in and brings us back down to earth with a resounding thud.

From Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here's an excerpt that shows how trusting and foolish I became when I had a pair of two-way radios.

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Back at the dorm that September, I thought I would have fun with my new walkie-talkies. I faced the same predicament as I did at home, namely finding somebody to use one at some distance from me. Charlie agreed to take one transceiver and walk to the top of the school grounds while I made my way down the hill. As I walked, I felt eager to learn how far I could travel and still communicate with him.

The experiment was going well until Charlie said, "I'm not going to give you back your walkie-talkie. I think I'll just keep it. What ya gonna do about that, Atchison?" Horrified, I begged him to return it. Once Charlie felt satisfied with my pleadings, he agreed to give it back. I never let any boy use the walkie-talkies after that. The two-way radios remained in my locker until Christmas. I removed the batteries and used them to power my broadcast receiver.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this compelling story. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.

Friday, 9 September 2011

WELL-INTENTIONED DAMAGE

I've heard that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. How true that is. We've all had some well-meaning friend or authority figure ruin something we spent hours making, toss out something we needed, or buy us an inappropriate present. Certain churlish individuals act out of spite but most folks just don't realize the consequences of their deeds.

The motives of those who sent me five hundred miles from home for months at a stretch might have been either honourable or malicious. Whatever they were, I left that institution socially stunted. From Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here's an excerpt that demonstrates the extent of my cultural deprivation.

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My social skills were likewise inadequate from being isolated in Jericho. As a result, I rarely gazed at people who spoke to me. My knowledge of etiquette, beyond saying "please" and "thank-you," was nonexistent. No one even taught me to hold doors open for ladies.

My conversation skills were similarly insufficient. I often answered questions without asking people any. My isolation made relating to sighted students and their activities difficult. They also regarded me as an oddity at best and a freak at worst.

Many of my social blunders were due to adopting mannerisms from the other children at Jericho. I often stared at the ceiling, rocked back and fourth, and held my head at an odd angle. These visually distracting habits were inoffensive to totally blind people but they bothered my sighted acquaintances.

Years later, a church friend told me that I was difficult to be with at first. "You're a likeable person now," she confided.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this compelling story. You
may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

THE BEST PLAYGROUND OF ALL.

What was your favourite place to play when you were a child? For me, it was a tract of undeveloped land on a residential school compound. Armed with only my imagination, I spent many happy recesses and hours after school exploring it. In my mind, it became everything from Sherwood Forest to an alien planet. It also helped me fend off my chronic homesickness.

From Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here's an excerpt that tells how we lost that marvellous play area due to government officials and their uninformed idea of what sort of recreation we would enjoy.

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During my time at Jericho, I fell in love with the small forest behind the classrooms and the plain above it. Whenever I played in that undeveloped area, I felt free from the supervisors and their judgmental scrutiny. That natural wonderland became my refuge. Therefore, I felt absolutely horrified when I saw what had happened to it. Landscapers had ripped it up and put in sidewalks and shrubs. Worse yet, the grownups admonished everybody not to play in the shrubbery and to keep to the sidewalks. The plain above the school, once a wild mix of boulders and mud, now had sod, a cinder track for running, and a path for walking.

Other unwelcome changes took place too. The strip of lawn, which we used for soccer, was also gone from behind the school. Dirty grey sand and a few large rocks were spread in its place. A set of swings and teeter-totters were erected by the grade two classroom. Next to it, a pyramid-shaped wooden structure with a built-in slide had been constructed. Behind the Music Room a concrete bunker had been built. It had an open door on the lower level and a hole in the ceiling with a metal ladder going up to the roof. This was level with a sidewalk and a wall ran around the top of the edifice to prevent children from falling off.

Though playground equipment was installed, its novelty soon wore off. In fact, some boys only used the bunker as a convenient place to urinate. While we did play reluctantly on the new equipment, it was highly inferior to the natural playground we had lost.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief.

Friday, 2 September 2011

THE COLD WIND OF FREEDOM.

Remember back in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed? People in satellite countries and former USSR republics immediately found themselves without masters. For the first time in their lives, these folks had to make their own decisions rather than relying upon the government.

Like the former citizens of the Soviet Union, I had to learn quickly how to make my own personal decisions. In many cases, people assumed that I ought to know how to do this without being told. From Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here's an excerpt that demonstrates how unprepared I was in 1970 for freedom.

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Because of being cloistered at Jericho, I lacked the social graces and mobility skills which children learn as a matter of course. The culture shock of returning to the public school system proved difficult for me to cope with. The tumult from hundreds of children alone disoriented me. I forgot how loud the hallways became when classes ended. Since we now went to different rooms for every subject, I needed to learn quickly where each was.

As I habitually walked to school when I attended grade one in Fort Saskatchewan, I assumed that I was supposed to travel the same way to my new school. I came in late the first few days since I kept underestimating the time it would take to walk there.

My teacher sent me to the principal's office on the third morning. "You are expected to be in class on time. Why were you late again today?" he demanded as he glared at me through his black horn-rimmed glasses..

"I live fifteen blocks away and it takes a long time to walk that distance."

"Why don't you take the bus then?"

"I don't know how," I admitted as I stared at the floor.

"You'd better learn to take the bus or find a ride with someone. You can't keep coming late to school."

My mobility skills were so deficient that I had no clue regarding how to catch a bus. The first time I tried, I did not know where to deposit the fare. "Stop fooling around," the bus driver demanded as I searched for the box. In desperation, I placed the coins on his hat which he left on the dash board.

Nobody told me that I qualified for a special bus pass which would allow me to ride for free. "Why don't you have a CNIB pass?" one driver asked. "If you can't see well, you should be allowed to have one."

Mom set up an eye exam appointment and, once the proper forms were filled out, I was the proud owner of my own pass. The freedom of not having to pay fifteen cents per ride as well as being able to travel wherever I wanted delighted me.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this compelling story. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE TRULY IS DANGEROUS.

Whatever made me think I knew how to take care of rabbits? I once assumed that all they needed were alfalfa pellets, carrots, weeds, and water. I also figured that bunnies could only be kept in cages and that they thrived in tight quarters.

Many years later, the realization that I was abismally uninformed about the physical and psychological needs of these herbivores finally sunk in. The House Rabbit Handbook by Marinell Harriman proved to me the extent of my ignorance and gave me the resolve to care for bunnies properly in future.

In When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies), I described how my lack of knowledge took the life of one sweet, handsome animal.

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In 1989, I bought a bunny from a breeder who built me a large hutch with sliding dropping pans. Since the bunny had medium brown fur with dark brown points, I named him Mr. Chocolate.

He was most likely an American Sable and had a patch of white fur on his left front paw as if there weren't enough pigment to go around. That disqualified him as a show rabbit. However, he was an affectionate and intelligent bunny.

One September evening, I gave Mr. Chocolate some stalks of stinkweed from the garden. He wolfed them down, as he did the dandelions and other greens which I habitually brought him.

When I went to feed him the next morning, he refused to eat his alfalfa pellets. Figuring Mr. Chocolate would soon eat again, I decided not to bother taking him to a vet. I'd heard somewhere
that certain animals occasionally go off their feed, so I waited for my bunny to resume eating.

Mr. Chocolate's health deteriorated and my new furry friend died about a year later from an intestinal blockage. After he died, I was depressed because my inaction had killed him. Though the rabbit had lived with me for only fifteen months, he had claimed a place in my heart and won me over with his charm.

Mr. Chocolate was so much a part of my daily routine that the house felt empty without him and I soon yearned to have another bunny.

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When a Man Loves a Rabbit contains many more fascinating stories of life with house bunnies. These range from the tragic to the hilarious. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.